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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony...a question of culture.

So, the long awaited London 2012 Olympics is under way. Gold medals are already being won and controversies have already cropped up. I just think some of these controversies are sour grapes but that’s not what I’m discussing today. I’m looking at the Olympics opening ceremony.

Now, I will agree a few bits didn’t quite interest me such as the readings and some of the music. However, credit to where it is due, I think Danny Boyle (Emmy award winning Director of Emmy Award winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) did a fantastic job. From the changing scenes, to the lighting effects and the fireworks, Mr. Bean and the Queen’s arrival and of course the delicious sexy dish that is David Beckham on a speedboat. it was stunning in quite a few bits. I fully applaud his effort to pay tribute to the people who while the in most vital of professions are often the most underappreciated – the National Health Service (NHS), Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) even the Creator of the world wide web...who I must confess I never knew was British. For me by far the most poignant and significant of moments was the choice to hand over the torch to the ‘next generation’ to light the cauldron. That showed to me that Danny Boyle ensured that the people who mattered participated.

While I agree that it could potentially have been a bit more entertaining in bits, certain statements I have heard about Brits lacking culture actually make me laugh out loud. Let’s look at it this way, what makes up culture:
  • Family, social classes (occupation, rank, status): Most family structure today is father, mother and children except for same sex couples, and of course extended family. Then the social classes. Every single country in the world has upper-class families, middle class and lower class families). Guess who pioneered this? Well the first ever documentation of the term ‘Middle class’ was in James Bradshaw’s 1745 pamphlet Scheme to prevent running Irish Wools to France. Guess what nationality he was....shock, horror – British.
  • Rules of behaviour: there are so many ‘polite’ things you must do. For e.g everyone stands for the singing of the Hallelujah chorus the world over, guess why? Well, according to Wikipedia, <<the custom of standing for the "Hallelujah" chorus originates from a belief that, at the London premiere, King George II did so, but there is no convincing evidence that the king was present, or that he attended any subsequent performance of Messiah; the first reference to the practice of standing appears in a letter dated 1756.>> A British tradition among many that is replicated the world over.
  • Language: This one is obvious ‘innit’? Majority of the world speaks the British traditional language ‘English’, it only fairly recently that French started gaining prominence but still not on par with English. Also the ‘normal’ shirts and skirts and trousers you usually wear if you were not aware are typical English attire. Most of the ‘so-called pop music’ you listen to is composed by British musicians...the Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John, Spice Girls etc. That is their traditional music that is listened to the world over.
  • Religion: Well most people again are Christians and quite a few nations e.g US and Nigeria’s constitutions and anthems among others are based on Christianity. If you were not aware Christianity was spread by the British missionaries.
  • Forms of government: again quite a few countries including Nigeria base their constitutions on the British constitution.
  • Economic systems: Well every country has a stock exchange, office/ blue collar work etc. That’s based on ancient British ‘customs’. Banks are typically British.

(Now before you ask ‘what of the US?’ note that the US of A was colonized by England...yes. The true owners of North American land are the ‘Native Americans or ‘Native Indians’. Pretty much all you see in America is English and amix of other cultures)

Also, culture is changed in a variety of ways one of which is technology. Were you aware that one of the greatest technological advancements of all time (arguably the greatest) – the world wide web – was designed by a British Man?

What am I getting at? Look around you. Without realizing it, you live, speak, eat (sometimes), operate and act British. This somewhat unassuming island that is UK has pretty much succeeded in indoctrinating the world in British culture – even USA – and the world does not know it. So next time you go accusing the British of having no culture, take a deep long look around you, yep, you are living English at least 50% of the time. I have to doff my hat to their ancestors they were smart. So stop being ‘ethnocentric’ (judging other cultures by the standards of yours). Their culture may not be as flamboyant as some but it has shown itself to be the most adaptable and widely known and accepted. #Food for thought.

(And for those who want to bring the slavery argument here, no-one forced your ancestors to trade their people in for goods, did they? Yes some were kidnapped/ captured but much as is done today all that was needed would have been some way of ensuring better preparedness against the captures and if necessary for war much like the Native Americans fought not just lying down and giving up. You see one can not take from you what you don’t give them authority to. Even a thief or a robber coerces you to give up authority by force before he can steal. It is easy to blame them but please tell me why the ancestors didn’t plan and fight back? Oh yeah...GREED.)

For me, London 2012 opening ceremony was a show to celebrate the best of British. The wonderfully bonkers, sometimes funny (I have always loved Mr. Bean), imperfect as is everyone, seemingly understated compared to others but still deeply cultured country that is Great Britain. I may not subscribe to everything that is British, but I do respect the nation for the strides it has achieved and urge them to vote in somebody else as the Prime Minister post-haste!

Someone...(or someTHING) has the Olympic spirit!

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